A place in the semi-finals of the Carabao Cup will be up for grabs when Liverpool take on Aston Villa at Villa Park on Tuesday.
Carabao Cup action resumes this midweek, as the latter stage of the competition commences. The first of the four quarter-finals will be an all-Premier League affair, as Aston Villa play hosts to Liverpool at Villa Park, hoping to get past a much-changed Reds side.
Aston Villa have seen their form nosedive in the last few weeks, having failed to win six of their last seven games dating back to the start of November. In the Carabao Cup, however, Dean Smith’s men have been rather impressive, with their gritty 2-1 win over Wolves in the Round of 16 notable among the three victories so far.
Liverpool, on the other hand, have been on a roll in domestic football this season, with only two sides managing to deny them an outright win in 90 minutes. One such result was the 5-5 draw in the previous round of the Carabao Cup, wherein the Reds prevailed on penalties.
Against Aston Villa, though, Liverpool will essentially be lining up with their under-23 players, after being put in a tricky situation due to their participation at the Club World Cup in Qatar. The first-team regulars are all set to begin their quest to become world champions on Wednesday, meaning a considerably weaker side will take the field at Villa Park.
Liverpool and Aston Villa have already locked horns this season, with the Reds coming from behind to prevail 2-1 last month in the Premier League. Ahead of the latest meeting between the two sides, The Hard Tackle takes a closer look at the Carabao Cup encounter.
Team News & Tactics
Dean Smith has a few pressing injury concerns hampering his preparations for the Carabao Cup quarter-finals meeting with Liverpool. On Tuesday, the Aston Villa manager is likely to be without four first-team players, with Tyrone Mings (thigh) the major absentee.
Conor Hourihane (knock) and Keinan Davis (thigh), meanwhile, are fighting a race against time to be fit enough to start against Liverpool. One confirmed absentee, though, is second-choice goalkeeper Jed Steer, who would likely have started the game, if fit.
With Tom Heaton expected to be rested, third-choice keeper Orjan Nyland should get a rare chance to impress, lining up in the Aston Villa goal. A number of other fringe players are likely to start as well, with Ezri Konsa and Neil Taylor getting an opportunity in defence.
Konsa should have Kortney Hause as his partner at the heart of the defence, with Ahmed Elmohamady completing the numbers in the backline, starting as Villa’s right-back. With Hourihane a doubt, Henri Lansbury could start once again, with Douglas Luiz sitting at the base of the three-man midfield.
John McGinn will likely be one of the few regulars taking the field against Liverpool, with the Scot being the workhorse in the middle of the park. Jonathan Kodjia is likely to lead the line for Aston Villa, starting in place of regular striker Wesley. Kodjia will likely be flanked by Jota and Trezeguet, with Jack Grealish being given a bit of a breather.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Nyland; Elmohamady, Konsa, Hause, Taylor; McGinn, Luiz, Lansbury; Jota, Kodjia, Trezeguet
Liverpool will not just have a change with respect to the players taking the field against Aston Villa, but also in the dugout. With Jurgen Klopp in Qatar with the first-team regulars for the Club World Cup, under-23 manager Neil Critchley will be in-charge on Tuesday.
Caoimhin Kelleher will line up between the sticks, as is customary for Carabao Cup fixtures. In front of him, there will be a few players who have previously taken the field for the first-team this season.
Ki-Jana Hoever will be deployed on the right side of the Liverpool defence, with Tony Gallacher likely to start on the opposite flank, seeing as Yasser Larouci is a major doubt. Sepp van den Berg is a certainty at the heart of the defence, where he is likely to be partnered by Morgan Boyes.
Up ahead in midfield, Pedro Chirivella will be the man under the spotlight, with the 22-year-old being tasked with providing the creative thrust from a deep lying position the middle of the park. Herbie Kane and Isaac Christie-Davies ought to accompany Chirivella.
The big concern is attack surrounds the fitness of Rhian Brewster, who has been labelled as a doubt due to an ankle injury. Brewster is likely to start, though, leading the line for Liverpool, with Harvey Elliott and Luis Longstaff completing the three-pronged attack.
Probable Lineup (4-3-3): Kelleher; Hoever, van den Berg, Boyes, Gallacher; Christie-Davies, Chirivella, Kane; Elliott, Brewster, Longstaff
- Tuesday will be the second instance when Aston Villa and Liverpool will be meeting in the League Cup, with the other coming at the same stage in the 2002-03 season. The Reds won 4-3 on their way to winning the competition that season.
- Liverpool have been victorious on each of their last six visits to Aston Villa in all competitions, with all wins coming in the Premier League between December 2011 and November this year.
- Aston Villa are looking to reach the semi-finals of the League Cup for the first time since the 2012-13 campaign; the last Englishman to lead the Villans to the Last Four stage was John Gregory in the 1999-2000 season.
- Liverpool have progressed from each of their last four League Cup quarter-finals (2011-12, 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17) since losing 2-0 to Chelsea at this stage in 2007-08.
- Aston Villa midfielder Henri Lansbury has more assists than any other player in this season’s EFL Cup (five), despite playing only two matches in the competition.
Player to Watch
While Carabao Cup has always been seen by Jurgen Klopp as a breeding ground for youngsters, Tuesday’s quarter-final clash still feels as if the entire under-23 team will face Aston Villa. In such a scenario, Harvey Elliott becomes a senior figure in the lineup, having featured in the competition twice already.
The onus will, thus, be on Elliott to use his experience from the previous two rounds in order to guide an inexperienced side past Aston Villa. A true test of Elliott’s character and it will be interesting to see if he can thrive under added pressure.
Aston Villa 3-1 Liverpool
It has been hard to bet against Liverpool in any game this season, but the Reds find themselves in a rather odd situation against Aston Villa. Perhaps for the first time this season, Liverpool approach a game as the underdogs, what with essentially the under-23 side set to take the field on Tuesday.
Inexperience is likely to be a major factor holding Liverpool down, especially with several regulars expected to take the field for Aston Villa. And so, while the Reds should display their trademark grit and determination, the gulf in quality will be telling in the end, which is why The Hard Tackle predicts a 3-1 win for Dean Smith & co.